PACC: Paddy storage graft 'cost B90 billion'

PACC: Paddy storage graft 'cost B90 billion'

Public Anti-Corruption Commission officials led by secretary-general Prayong Preeyajit inspect rice stocks at a warehouse in Sukhothai's Si Samrong district as part of the investigation into alleged tampering of rice stocks. (Photo and video by Apichit Jinakul)
Public Anti-Corruption Commission officials led by secretary-general Prayong Preeyajit inspect rice stocks at a warehouse in Sukhothai's Si Samrong district as part of the investigation into alleged tampering of rice stocks. (Photo and video by Apichit Jinakul)

Fraud in paddy storage for the rice-pledging scheme in the lower North has caused more than 90 billion baht in damages, says the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

PACC secretary-general Prayong Preeyajit disclosed the figure allegations Monday while he and his subordinates were travelling to Shin Thanasap warehouse in tambon Ban Pong, Si Samrong district, Sukhothai to inspect state rice stocks.

The warehouse made an agreement with the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) to keep 5% broken grade white rice (95% full grain with 5% broken grain), pledged under the 2012-13 programme.

Mr Prayong said the inspection was carried out after the PACC's subcommittee reported storage irregularities.

The inspection found that substandard rice believed to have been harvested between 2008 and 2011 was brought to be stored there instead. This included broken milled rice.

The panel also found good-quality rice had been taken out of storage to be sold and replaced with deteriorated grain, he said.

This practice was detected at 12 warehouses in Sukhothai, while rice had simply disappeared in other provinces, said Mr Prayong.

The offence was likely committed by several people in a network, said the PACC secretary-general.

The PACC has brought charges against the storage supervisor, rice surveyors and rice quality examiners for malfeasance, falsification of documents and collusion in the offence.

"In the jurisdiction of the PACC's Area 6 office, there are 506 cases (of fraud in the rice scheme), with damages exceeding 90 billion baht," said Mr Prayong.

The office is in charge of eight lower North provinces.

Shin Thanasap warehouse was contracted to keep 290,000 rice sacks, with 40,000-50,000 having been discharged from storage.

"Although the PWO officials (assigned to handle the storage) have retired, this will not hinder authorities from pursuing criminal and disciplinary action against them," said Mr Prayong.

According to a PACC source, the PWO officials and the warehouse's owner told investigators they had only used sacks marked with years between 2008-2011, as there were not enough sacks to hold the huge volumes of rice pledged under the 2012-2013 scheme. The source said such claims carried no weight as the practice was clearly in breach of contract.

The sacks must bear the labels made by the PWO indicating the years of the pledged rice, while the ropes used to tie up the sacks must employ different colours based on the year, said the source.

Damage caused at the Shin Thanasap warehouse alone was estimated at 800 million baht, said the source. The warehouse also allegedly gave false information about the distance between the warehouse and the mill factory to inflate compensation claims from the government.

Pol Col Kasidit Permpoonwiwat, chief of the PACC's Area 6 office, said of the 506 cases, 364 cases are now being probed.

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